Girl of four trapped in 'ball of flames' after garden heater exploded in horrific ordeal

Charlotte Woodman and Alan Boddington's daughter Tay
Tay before the accident (Collect/PA Real Life). -Credit:No credit

A girl of four suffered horrific burns when a garden heater exploded - leaving her in a "ball of flames". Tay Boddington is being treated at Birmingham Children's Hospital and her family have no idea how long she will be there.

She was sitting near a bioethanol-fuelled garden heater when it suddenly burst into flames upon being ignited, leaving her engulfed in fire, on May 12. Tay was rushed to her nearest hospital before being transferred to Birmingham.

Her mum, Charlotte Woodman, 36, who runs School House Daycare in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, said she saw her daughter turn into a "ball of flames", and she frantically tried to "pat her down". Her dad Alan Boddington, 56, and owner of a vehicle fleet management business, doused her with running water in the bath.

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Tay was initially taken to Northampton General Hospital and later transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital's burns centre. She has already had multiple skin grafts, which involved shaving her hair to harvest skin from her scalp for grafting onto other parts of her body. But she still faces more surgeries and suffered considerable nerve damage.

The couple, from Ravensthorpe, Northamptonshire, have their friend Carly Chaplin, 37, speaking for them and acting as their "voice". She has launched a fundraiser to support them with the hope of raising awareness to protect other families.

Carly said: "I am purely a voice for them at the moment, but as always, they're so selfless. They want to plough all the money back into the community and the burns unit.

"This has been devastating and horrendous for them, but with the fundraiser, we're hoping something positive can come from it. Our main message is prevention is better than cure."

Charlotte Woodman with her daughter Tay in hospital
Charlotte cuddling Tay in hospital (Collect/PA Real Life) -Credit:No credit

Carly, who lives in Guilsborough and works at School House Daycare, which Tay attends five times a week, said the four-year-old was "the heart of the nursery" who loved helping other children and was a "lovely, beautiful girl". She said she was stunned to hear of the incident.

Carly said: "They were having a family barbecue and we think the heat has compressed, (someone) has gone to light the heater, and it has gone bang. She was pretty much in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was on fire; she was a ball of flames that's how Charlotte described it. She is lucky to even be here."

Charlotte tried to "pat her down" with help from Tay's 11-year-old brother Enzo, but when that failed, Alan "swooped in" and whisked Tay to the bath, immersing her body in cool running water. Following the arrival of both air and road ambulances, as well as the fire service, Tay was taken to Northampton General Hospital for "stabilisation".

Medical professionals shared images of Tay's burns with Stoke Mandeville Hospital, but due to the severity of her injuries, she was transferred by ambulance to the Burns Centre at Birmingham Children's Hospital, where her wounds received cleaning and dressing.

Charlotte Woodman and Alan Boddington's daughter Tay in hospital
Tay with play workers at the hospital before her surgeries (Collect/PA Real Life). -Credit:No credit

"She is badly burned from her bottom lip down, her arms and legs, and she has so far had two surgeries, skin grafts, and there will be another surgery next week," Carly said. "She's had to have her hair shaved because they've taken skin from the scalp that skin apparently takes better for her skin grafts, and she's having all these IVs and drips."

"She's lost nerve endings as well, and obviously her eyelashes and eyebrows have gone, but she's still beautiful and she's rocking it."

The NHS advises immediate first aid for burns should involve removing the person from the heat source to halt the burning process, stripping away any clothing or jewellery near the affected skin area except for items stuck to the skin and cooling the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 to 30 minutes.

Carly, along with other parents, has set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of the family, aiming to raise £10,000. Alan has already contributed £500, bringing the current total to £6,560.

The couple plan to use the cash to buy fire blankets for families at School House Daycare and in their community, as well as donating to the Burns Centre, where they said the care had been "second-to-none". Carly said: "I'm not just saying this, they're known as the kindest people here.

"Charlotte always gives back, does things for the community via the nursery, she's helped families out, myself included, and the same goes for Alan. They're very giving, kind people and that's why I think people have been so receptive to this (fundraiser)."

Alan Boddington with his daughter Tay
Alan with Tay (Collect/PA Real Life). -Credit:No credit

"Life is hard right now, and with everyone's generosity, I think that's what makes it even more overwhelming."

Charlotte and Alan, through Carly, shared a statement: "Our main focus at the moment is getting Tay healthy, healed, and happy again. It will then be trying to process this traumatic event as a family and to move forward navigating the challenges Tay may have ahead.

"We are overwhelmed with the kindness from people that have donated, and we cannot thank everyone enough.

A selfie of Carly Chaplin
Carly Chaplin is speaking out on behalf of Tay's parents and wants to do everything she can to support them (Collect/PA Real Life). -Credit:No credit

"Our next step when Tay is feeling better will be to host a community event whereby we can raise awareness and educate families within our community about burns, immediate first aid that is required when someone is burned, and to also run workshops for children and adults highlighting the risks and dangers associated with barbecues and fires.

"We will also be donating to the Birmingham Children's burn unit. We cannot thank the team here enough for all they are doing for Tay. With love and gratitude, Charlotte and Alan."

To find out more or to donate, visit the fundraiser here. For advice on barbecue safety, visit Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service's website at: